Friday, December 16, 2016


It’s a Christmas scene outside my window.  Snow. Sun. A lovely moment.  It doesn’t help.  I still feel sad.  Tony Martin singing in the next room doesn’t help either. 

I’ve tried three times in the past week to find a perfect Christmas tree.  I knew what I wanted—a bare tree, not fake green anywhere, just sweet Led lights at the tips of its leafless branches,  my twenty-year-old dried pomegranates swinging in all their maroon grandeur inside the web of light. It would be small enough to not overwhelm our living room, cheerful enough to greet the several sets of friends and family who would be visiting. 

It did not exist at any of the local stores I visited.  I resorted to online sites, clicking through hundreds, maybe thousands of pictures of every kind of tree one could imagine, even several which would stand up-side-down in a tree yoga pose for the season, don’t ask me why.  Then I found it.  Bare branches, little lights, just the right size, almost the right price, but close enough.

The box came a week later.  I love to decorate for Christmas and my husband doesn’t. But this tree would be simple, easy, not involving the two large containers filled with gold balls and chains and strings of lights stuffed at the bottom of the storage cage in our condo’s lower floor.  Only an electric outlet. 

We would plug it in on Saturday night, and celebrate the season and the tree with martinis after the arduous task of taking it out of its box.  Christmas carols floating around us, olives floating in our glasses, I, butcher knife in hand, ripped open the box, pulled out the packing, and found nestled in puce-green tissue, three ugly, red,  metal,  containers:  Baskets, the tags said.  Disaster, I said, wanting to either cry or say a very bad word.  I did both.

The red things are still in our bedroom waiting for the Return Label promised a week ago so that I can send them back to wherever they came from.  I returned to the computer, this time searched Amazon’s offerings, vaguely aware that they sold things other than my books.  And, yes!  Another tree, even better than the first, cheaper, at least.  I ordered it and was promised two-day delivery.  That would have been today.  I moved furniture to make room for it, found the old pomegranates.  Got ready.

Then it snowed.  Everywhere.  Apparently even where this tree has been waiting for us.  An email informed me late last night that its journey has been delayed because of bad weather. Sorry, they said.  I didn’t respond.  One cannot swear at Mother Nature, can she?

So, I’m sitting at the window, watching bundles with legs sliding their dogs in the park below me and an occasional car creep along shiny asphalt.  And once I convince myself that a tree does not a Christmas make, I’ll put on my puffy jacket and cap and head out for the figs I need for figgy pudding.  My family loves figgy pudding at Christmas, but we all know that pudding does not make Christmas either. Love does, and we have lots of that, no matter what the weather is.

Jo Barney Writes

Sunday, October 30, 2016


I’ve always known how my books will end.  Begin with a character or two, get them in trouble, get them out of trouble, or changed, and end with most everybody as happy as flawed humans can be.  If I have a bad guy, he’s dead or redeemed.  I know my protagonist and antagonist well; I keep their biographies beside my computer and sometimes these folks get a little angrier or sexier or more understanding than I had planned.  So do my real friends as I get to know them better.

However, with this new story, I decided to “let the characters lead me,” as some novelists claim happens and they have led me to Google, dozens of times, because they keep developing in ways I hadn’t anticipated. The book starts with a depressed woman failing at committing suicide. Her son saves her. A new neighbor who is black becomes her friend, a hedge between their houses becomes a metaphor, the husbands of the women are war-damaged men, their children have/are problems.  When I started, this began as a look at depression, a symptom of a number of women, including myself at times. 

In order to follow my characters, every time I sit down (and I’m at 40,000 words), I find myself going to Google. The setting is just after the VietNam war ends. My Google searches are to determine if what I’m writing is anachronistic, since I had young children at that time and did not do much except go to their hockey games and warn them that TV would make them blind and popular music deaf.

So far, my list of searches includes slang terms for Asians, Elvis Presley, antibiotics, weapons used in the Korean and Viet Nam wars, disposable diapers, autism, Down syndrome, grenade blasts, battle fatigue/shell shock/PTSD, how the vas deferens are surgically, and by war injuries, severed, (U tube has a video I couldn’t stop looking at), drug treatment centers, the VA hospital,  Dagwood, Laverne and Shirley (which seems funny even forty years later),  Legos, DNA,  Goodwill sheltered workshops, group homes, state institution, pancreatic cancer, divorce in the 70’s, Ed Sullivan, and more, including hedge trimming.

If nothing else, I have been educated by this study of the Seventies, a decade I don’t really remember. I have recovered some dim pieces of my past and I now know when Presley died and the year our soldiers were airlifted out of Saigon, the first use of DNA. My book is trying to get itself to a climax and a conclusion, and Google and I are struggling to help it get there. As I said, I still don’t know what that will be, but I’m enjoying the trip. Here is the first paragraph of what I’m calling right now, You’ve Come to the Right Place.”
I close my eyes, my lips. Only my nostrils move as they take in what air is left. Soon, I think. Plastic film pulls taut against my nose. Now, I think.

A scream slices through the soothing fog, makes me open my eyes. “Mom!  Mom!”

I am rolled over. Cool air floods across my face. Not now, I mourn. “You weren’t supposed to come home until five.”

            I watch my son’s face crunch into its usual confusion. “We finished early. Why are you lying down on the grass?” I feel his arm slip under my neck as I struggle to sit up. “Why did you put on this grocery bag?” 

            My head on his shoulder, I smell the sweat his anxiety has stirred up.

Jo Barney Writes

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


I haven’t posted for a while. It seemed a little egocentric to discuss my small joys and pains, affecting no one but me, when the whole country is in pain with few joys in which to take take solace.  I even spent one complete day in bed, reading what is probably a very funny book and feeling a spark or two of gratitude to the author for his attempts to pull me out of the doldrums.  But I got up at dinnertime, turned on the news and discovered I was still slogging in them.

Do we all feel this way during this election month?  That our country is in for a tough few years no matter who wins—and not necessarily because of who wins, but because of our inability listen to each other? 

In the story I’m trying to write now, because I have a character who is an alcoholic, I’ve talked with people personally involved in AA and have researched Alcoholic Anonymous programs.  My character is a damaged drunk, a poor husband, a negligent father , an irresponsible worker, and he likes it that way.  AA advises that not until a disaster strikes him will he realize that he has hit rock bottom and there’s nowhere else to go––except, possibly, up.

This may be the point at which Jack, my character, will seek help, from a rehab facility, from a counselor, and from his wife if she is still around.  I don’t know yet.  My plots evolve as I write, and often times have redemptive endings, so I’m hopeful about Jack’s future. If he turns his life around, it will be because he decides to make difficult choices.  No one can force him to change, not even his weeping wife. I do not know how Jack’s story will end.

Just as I, and we, do not know what will happen next in our stymied, ineffective, damaged federal government.  Perhaps we as a people have to hit bottom before we decide to make choices that will make change possible. I’m not talking about political parties.  I’m talking about our learning to listen, as individuals, to the geographical, philosophical, ethnic, rich and poor, young and old strangers who make up our country–and to paraphrase a familiar set of words, who can make America strong again. 


Jo Barney Writes

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Andy Warhol and Me

One of the many pieces of advice I’ve gotten from my diverse probes into the internet in search of a magic way to sell my books was that I needed to send out press releases.I researched the definition of a press release and asked my patient husband if he remembered ever receiving them as a journalist. He said he was sure he had. He was also sure they had ended up on his wastebasket. That was forty years ago, before email, he added.  Maybe it is different these days.

But after emailing twenty cleverly-written, intriguingly hooked, illustrated (with my best picture and the covers of my books) messages, and getting no response, not even a rejection email back, I decided two things:  I didn’t know shit about writing press releases, and even if I did, I was in competition for attention in print with the other ten thousand self-published writers in the state. Junk folders in newspaper computers and neighborhood publications must be stuffed to overflowing with our pathetic attempts to get someone to notice us. Unknown writers rarely get even an inch of printed space anywhere. 

Misery loves company, but thinking that didn’t make me feel better.

I began my next novel. I tried to write about someone young, a romance maybe, they are selling right now, but the page remained blank for days. However, when I uncovered sixty-year old Eleanor with an impossible grand daughter in my subconscious, the words started coming. My computer was glad.  So was I.

Then the phone call came.  Someone whose name I didn’t catch, wanted to interview me. For a piece in the Oregonian. About? “Your writing,” he said. “I saw your press release. I’ll come to your place.” I made sure my husband would be here when he came, just to make sure I was safe. I used to teach Stranger Danger to middle schoolers.

It was apparent from his questions that he had created his own hook:  an 81- year -old woman who writes about sex. He seemed somewhat pervertedly impressed.

“I write about older women. Older women are human beings, they think human things, among them they remember sex, wonder about it. Do it. Is this so weird?” I asked.  He left. A photographer came. She assured me that my writer was well-respected, even won Pulitzer once. Not to worry.

Four weeks later, the article and the video appeared. They made me look terrific. I loved not only the writing, but the many emails from friends congratulating me on continuing to write novels about “old ladies” who discover that they still are in charge of their lives when they might have given up.  Like me, perhaps, an old lady unfamiliar with press releases.

I do not write with fame and fortune as my goals.  That’s good because fortune has eluded me. However, my fifteen minutes of fame, ala Andy Warhol, felt very good. And Eleanor is coming along. All's well.

Jo Barney Writes

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


Sometimes the oddest small happenings trigger a chain of memories. Not always a long chain, but in this case, potent, despite the seventy years it stretches across. This kind of summer-wondering has led me to a profound question: What ever happened to the wink?

I have learned that I sometimes have a balance problem when I’m carrying a bag of groceries and I have a scar to remind me. So yesterday, groceries slung over an arm and new orthopedic insoles forced me to walk cautiously as I made my way home from Safeway. The sun was shining, and I might have been smiling (or gritting my teeth a little) as I went along. Ahead of me a small grizzled black man stood on one edge of the sidewalk looking my way. He was old, like me. A little humped, but smiling big, he met  my eyes. His glance shimmered with good cheer. I smiled big back at him. I couldn’t hear his words as he winked, but I smiled even bigger and was forty years younger, my steps light and sure.

My first wink came in the sixth grade. Innocent in those days, we gained boyfriends through snickering rumors. The latest rumor was that Erwin, who sat two seats in front of me, liked me. “Did he say so?” I asked the friend who had whispered the news. Erwin had never even glanced as me. He was okay, though, except for his Day-Glo socks, and he was never mean on the playground like some of the boys. When our strict teacher relaxed his patrol of the room, looking for something in his closet, Erwin turned around, grinned and winked at me, confirming the rumor. I got the message, but I never did get used to his bright orange socks.

I read that in the Wodabbe tribe in the Niger area, a man who wants to have sex with a girl will wink at her. If the girl continues to look at him, he will slightly move his lip corner, showing the direction to his selected bush. However, Wikipedia adds that in other cultures, a wink can express approval and appreciation. That’s the kind of wink I am referring to. No bushes involved.

Other winks are only twitches in my memory, but I’ll never forget the one in Lucca. I was walking along a street, my husband in language school, I foraging in English for our dinner. Using my fingers I had learned to say eight slices of prosciutto and to point at the melons and I had the prerequisite string bag hanging on my arm. A block or so from the market, three or four old men stood talking and smoking. They seemed to stand a little straighter as I approached. They smiled. I smiled back. When I passed the quieted group, the one closest to me winked and, his voice, low and Italian, whispered “Bella.”

“Bella,” after seventy-two years of aging, bad knees, sun spots. I have taken courage from that wink and that word for almost ten years. And today, a gentle man winked at me and I felt the same surge of joy. If males understood the power of a wink, they’d learn to lower one eyelid, smile, murmur one sweet word. No telling what would happen after that, but I think it would be good.

Jo Barney Writes

Sunday, June 5, 2016


For a minute I felt a little like Lana Turner must have felt as she sipped her Coke at a Hollywood drugstore counter and heard the guy sitting next to her say, “Would you like to be in movies?” I’m guessing she turned, smiled brightly, said “Yes,” as he took her by the hand and led her away to fame.

I sat in a wicker chair, so dry-mouthed I had to force my lips to open. No drugstore, only the Pacific mumbling below us. “I like the sound of your story.  Will you send me the manuscript?” I licked my mouth, tried to curve it into a smile. “Yes.” The NY agent walked me to the door and into a life of fame. But first I had to find a glass of wine or at least a Coke so that I could celebrate, tell the news to my friend.

We had spent the day at a writers’ workshop listening to a speaker tell us how we should write our next novels. I fidgeted. I couldn’t relate. I had finished my next novel and I had paid the fee to pitch it to the guest agent. I waited two sweat-palmed hours for my fifteen minutes with her and with destiny. “Send me the manuscript,” made the year of writing, the long workshop, the wet hands, the dry mouth all worth while.

I went over each page one more time, incorporated some of the changes one of my Beta readers had suggested, and created a title. The Long Road, I decided late one night. Done. Punched “Send” and flung my book into the world. Then I waited for fame––or at least a response from the pleasant young woman who had nodded through my halting synopsis in that ocean-fringed room.

“We get three hundred queries a week,” she had warned. Then she added, “We are a small agency. We bring out about four or five books a year.” For days I tried not to think of the odds. I went for walks, drank a little too much white wine, was so crabby that my husband escaped regularly to the bakery down the street for a little peace and his New York Times.

On the tenth day, I opened my emails and her name appeared.

It was not a standard everyday rejection. She referred to the great weekend at the beach. She had read The Long Road, liked it, but. . . “But I’m afraid that I just didn’t get that breathless sense of connection while reading your pages, and that’s the kind of enthusiasm that I need to summon when I decide to go to bat for a book.”

Fair enough. I know about that breathless sense of connection. I’ve experienced it in books I’ve read and loved, the ones I wished I’d written. Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf, the first half of Penelope Lively’s bio Dancing Fish and Ammonites, come to mind. These stories are my kind of stories, about the lives of older women. Perhaps I’d do better with an agent over sixty instead of a smiling twenty-something.

But I’m questioning whether I’m brave enough to risk further attempts to find an agent. Or tenacious enough for more rewrites of The Long Road, breathless connections in mind. When I decide,  I’ll have my summer’s work laid out.

Jo Barney Writes

Monday, May 2, 2016


The online article on marketing one’s novel stated that authors had to do it themselves unless they’d written another Fifty Shades of Grey, and it advised in twenty-nine helpful hints what I should do to sell my books. “A million books are published a year. You must find and sell to your audience.” My problem is that my audience, while growing, may not be reading so much. 

Where could I find people who want to read about older women? A conversation with my husband, invalided with an injury from falling off a rowing machine, sobered us. Maybe we should think of a retirement residence, he said. “They have safe exercise rooms and you wouldn’t have to cook every night.”

“I wouldn’t have to cook very night if you cooked on Tuesday and Thursdays.”  But the idea stuck, not about cooking, but about where my audience might be found

I called the social directors of ten local retirement residences. My goal was to encourage others my age to write. ”It has meant so much to me,” I said. I didn’t say that I’d mention a few of my books along with how to buy them. I set up four meetings

I must have misread my first gig’s blurb in the telephone book. Its sign read Assisted Living Residence, not Retirement Residence. My audience, about twenty people, was led in, quiet, attentive, mostly deaf, some asleep, except for the two who had had  yearnings to write about their Second World War experiences. I cheered them on. One fellow who nodded to me all through my talk, came up afterward, his hands gesturing and his eyes eager. Live one, I thought. He told me several very elaborate jokes. Then his nose started bleeding. I lent him a tissue and waved goodbye, mid-joke. The best part of the hour was that twenty folks showed up, and that I had thought to tuck a Kleenex in my purse.

The numbers declined. Eight at the second talk, unnerving because my presentation was scheduled in an auditorium that seated fifty, but good because two of the women had been writers, one of them very angry about a rejection she had received a few years back. I offered my sympathy. It felt good to commiserate.

At the third residence, I sat for long minutes in an empty room. Then a couple in their nineties wheeled through the door and asked where everyone was. The two, rich with world experiences, English accents, and a marriage that sounded similar to mine, disagreed on who remembered what. She read an essay she had written long before, her memories of internment in WWII Shanghai. I left , but I said I’d be back. I want to know more, the way a good book makes me feel.

At my last stop, the audience I had dreamed of circled around my chair: seven people who wanted to write. My personal mantra* brought smiles and many minutes of conversation. As I walked out of the building, a novel prodded at me. About a writers’ group made up of old ladies with dreams.

Jo Barney Writes

Thursday, March 31, 2016


I’ve just cut to pieces, reassembled, re-read and edited my next novel which still doesn’t have a title and if things go as they have been, perhaps not even a life.

What happened to this story that I had created at my computer and in bed at my usual wake-up hour of 3:00 a.m. is that I couldn’t decide at first from which viewpoint I’d tell the story: the fifteen-year-old girl who was in the middle of escaping an abusive relationship at a homeless camp under a local viaduct or that of the seventy-year-old childless woman at whose door the girl appears one night saying, “Hello, Grandma.”

An early morning inspiration decreed that I’d tell this story from both viewpoints, alternate the chapters, and one would be told in present tense, the other in past tense. A kind of challenge to me, the writer.  All went pretty well. I had to keep track of what was happening two chapters before the one I was writing and somehow keep the timeline the same for each viewpoint version. When the girl opens the door and sees her abuser sitting on the porch (her POV), the old lady will hear the conversation and call the police (her POV), one chapter later. 

I somehow did this for two hundred pages. Then I read what I had written. The opening chapter had no hook, the story had an arc but it arced weakly in two places and the tension I had hoped for dissipated into ho- hum. The story might have been interesting, but the telling wasn’t.

So I did what I’ve done before with at least one other first draft. I cut it into pieces and laid them out on our bed. I pushed the pieces around, moving the third chapter (one that caught even my attention) to the opening chapter of the book, and combined the two arcs into one big arc involving both my characters. Then I gathered up the results of the efforts on the bed, stapled the piles all together, and realized when I looked them  over that I’d lost what I wanted to establish when I started, POV and tenses. Plus, the story read as if I’d put it together in a Sunbeam Mix Master

I have bandaged this sad wounded story with edits and re-writes for more than two weeks now. It’s not healed yet. I’m almost sure its condition is terminal.

Sometime this early morning I remembered a book written by William Styron, I believe, describing his bout with depression during the writing of a novel that just wasn’t going anywhere, no matter what he tried.  He, or a writer like him, sat one evening, silent, at a table as guests talked and laughed around him. Suddenly, the writer got up from the table, went into his study, picked up his manuscript, grabbed a shovel in the back hall, went outside, dug a hole, and buried the sucker in the vegetable garden.

I guess my novel is lucky I live in a condo with four small pots of geraniums on the terrace and no shovel.

Jo Barney Writes

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

It's Been a Quiet, Reading, Thinking Month, a Waiting Week

It  makes sense that my books’ protagonists are older women.  I‘m interested in older women because I am one.  I also read about women who have survived the traumas of being young and are now facing the uncertainties of age.  So, I expected the three books I chose last month at Powell’s to have been written by writers like me. Old ladies. Not true. And all three books have found permanent spots in my bookcase. I’ll read them again and again for pleasure and for contemplation.
Dancing Fish and Ammonites, a memoir by Penelope Lively, describes being eighty so truthfully that I had to refrain from reading the first few chapters aloud to my sleeping husband. “You get used to it.  And that surprises me.  You get used to diminishment, to a body that is stalled, an impediment?  Well, yes, you do…” Reading it, I felt I’d found a sister, one who writes about being old a lot better than I do. Not an old lady, a vital one.
Our Souls at Night, by Kent Haruf, tells of a brave seventy-year-old woman who visits her widower neighbor and asks him to sleep with her. He does.  It is a wonderful story of love, family, and the realities of being alone, aging. Haruf wrote this in his seventies, his last book, published posthumously.
Rabih Alameddine tells the story of An Unnecessary Woman,  who lives alone, unfriended, in an apartment in Beirut as war circles around her workroom where she translates classic translations into Arabic and then places her manuscripts in boxes in a back room to be read by no one. I had to look up Alameddine’s bio to confirm that this gorgeously written, sensitive description of an isolated old woman, was written by a man.

When I tried to place book covers on this post, my computer started writing in Greek. Really. I  believe this was punishment for stealing images from Amazon.  I'm trying again. As one of my books states, "It's never too late to. . ."  whatever, even  become a thief.  And I'm thinking that it's time to get back to the rewrite of the untitled manuscript in front of me––right after I attempt this little diversive crime . And finish Elizabeth Strout's new novel lying open on my chair.

Jo Barney Writes

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


As the final pages of the first draft of my next novel fell out of the printer and were punch-holed into submission, it became time for me to tackle the next challenge: the recalcitrant toilet paper holder problem.
            Its downward slant seemed designed on purpose to send the roll of toilet paper off itself and onto the floor, out of the reach of the seated roll-ee. Dangerous. I found an Allen wrench, the place where a tiny screw was not screwing well, and I crawled along the foot of the toilet bowl towards the culprit .
After few minutes of fiddling with the wrench, I got good at “righty tighty, lefty loosie,” and I worked the screw loose. About the size of a comma, it, now liberated, dropped to the floor behind the toilet, not once but thrice, and I was forced, on my knees, to feel my way to its resting places. Each time, the wrench slid under the rug or the counter or under an aching knee. I gave up, limped away.
            So, that evening, over a glass of wine and his latest manuscript, I coerced my carpenter/writer buddy to help me. It would be an Even Steven deal. I was willing to assist him in placing his commas. He would get my toilet paper thingy level. He agreed.
 I noted that he straddled the toilet, rather than crawling behind it as I did. His approach, aggressive, male, however, led to him dropping the screw, the wrench, and then, with a deep inhale, a mutter of the same words I’d used. The bar went on slumping. My friend wondered out loud if commas were worth the effort.
            “Would super glue work?”
            “Haven’t a clue. Any Malbec left?” he asked and we went on to commas.
This evening, undaunted, I discovered a tube of super glue in our weird-tubes cabinet.  I can do this, I told myself. I straddled the toilet, loosened the screw, dropped it but didn’t swear, squeezed the glue into the hole and when I found it, onto the screw, wrenched it one more time, and wiped the overflow off with my fingers.
Within minutes the holder was solidly parallel to the floor, no longer a threat to the rolls that trusted it. And within the same minutes my fingers had become a mass of bone and flesh, no longer fingers. No longer possible were attempts to poke at keys on my computer. No longer did the corkscrew fit into my paw. No longer could I avoid noticing the irony of believing that one can be good at anything she tries, when her fingers are glued together.

I still believe. But sometimes it takes time, a very hot shower and a bottle-opening husband to affirm that belief.



Jo Barney Writes

Monday, January 25, 2016

A Friend Writes!



Author: Jim Cangany Release Day: January 26, 2016 Genre: Sports Romance Publisher: Penner Publishing



FINAL_AMAZON-APPLE-EBOOK-300x464On The Rebound is a sweet, sports romance set on the campus of fictional Irving University. It's a story about second chances and features a women's college basketball team. Here's a teaser for you. After he's caught in a grade fixing scandal, men’s college basketball coach Greg Miller is thrown a lifeline when an old friend offers him a job with the small-school Irving University women’s team. Academic Advisor Ciara Monaghan knows first-hand the heartbreak and havoc a cheating man can wreak. She wants nothing more than to protect the University's reputation by seeing to it that Greg’s stay at Irving is short. The last thing either of them wants is the attraction they can’t deny. Can a struggling member of the basketball team bring them together to see how wonderful a second chance at life, and love, can be?



JimPhotoJim Cangany was forty pages into his first manuscript when he realized it was a romance. He went with it and has great joy writing sweet, contemporary love stories. A lover of things that go fast, when Jim’s not writing, you can probably find him checking into the latest from IndyCar or pro bike racing. He lives in Indianapolis with his saint of a wife Nancy, his sons Seamus and Aidan, and the princess of the house, kitty cat Maria. Visit him: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads or Tumbler


ibooks_button ibooks_button bnn_button kobo_button

Jo Barney Writes

Wednesday, January 6, 2016


I’ve been lying about for five days.  My body got word that my brain was exhausted, having fretted for days over Christmas. No different than the usual holiday meltdown, except this one is accompanied by copious amounts of snot. Mucous, some more refined, breathing persons might call it.  Me, I calls it as I sees it. Or choke on it, or strangle on it.

So, I’ve taken to my bed.  I have listened to two audio readings, thirteen hours of novels left behind by my son, who uses them to keep himself awake on long car journeys to visit me and his grandmother, mostly his grandmother. I become resigned to John Grisham, Robert Ludlum Then I am lifted out of the dark realms of thrillers to a place I haven’t visited in years. A calming, womanly voice introduces me to Greece, to the Trojan War, to a hero with no inhibitions and his wife alit with sterling qualities. Odysseus and Penelope. Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad.  My son loves Margaret Atwood’s dystopic view.  I bet he didn’t expect Homer when he bought this cd.

I forget the mucous.  I forget the headache.  I almost forget to breathe.  The Odyssey from Penelope’s point of view. The wife left behind.  Helen, the beautiful, snarky cousin who causes the Trojan war, the Cyclops, the Sirens, the sex-demented goddesses, all those folks appear as we may have once met them in lit class, but Margaret explains their existences in this 2,000 year-old-story logically, unHomerically, with humor.  She explains why when Odysseus finally comes home after twenty years, he proceeds to kill Penelope’s twelve faithful handmaidens, which historians still wonder about. We don’t need to know why he killed off the fifty or so suitors who are waiting for word that he is dead so that they can marry Penelope and gain a fortune. By end when Odysseus takes off again, we know that Penelope is going to be okay. She rolls her eyes and waves him off on the next journey. She has the kingdom to concern herself with.

Three hours. I was hypnotized for three hours, living with another woman who suffered and prevailed, as I would over snot.

Similar experience today. It is three days later. I’ve used up two toilet paper rolls. “TMI,” my husband observes. “Shut up” I sputter. I have discovered on my old Kindle something I don’t remember clicking on. I’m bored. I choose it. And I read, at first not sure what I have, then not caring. The writing is beautiful, the concept intriguing.  A novel about four young men who meet in college and the next forty years of their lives. Written by a woman. After reading for several hours, loving the words, the young men, I look at the bottom of the kindle page and see that I’ve read only 7% of the book. And how did this book even appear on my Kindle? I Google it. Some time a while back, I must have read a review and seen it was on the Booker Mann short list, and ordered it. Without the internet, I would have never met Hanhya Yanagihara as she tells, in A Little Life, the sad, real, touching stories of Jude, JB, Malcolm, and Willem as they head out into life.

Hasn’t cured the mucus situation but I’m now at 60%, probably about page 450, on the Kindle and have a couple of days to lie about and finish up.  I can stay sick that long.

Jo Barney Writes